Harold Cliff said Omaha is moving ahead with “guarded optimism” as the field of candidates to host the 2016 U.S. Olympic Swim Trials has been trimmed from six to four.
The Omaha Sports Commission president also said Tuesday that USA Swimming still plans to announce a final decision during its board of directors meeting on April 27.
Omaha, which hosted the U.S. Trials in 2008 and 2012, is now in the process of negotiating a contract with USA Swimming. Others still in the mix are San Antonio, St. Louis and Greensboro, N.C. The two cities eliminated from the initial list of hopefuls released by USA Swimming in January are Indianapolis and Jacksonville, Fla.
USA Swimming made its site visit to Omaha on Feb. 11. It gave Cliff and others from the Omaha Sports Commission board and MECA a chance to expand on Omaha's bid and what it might do differently from the two past U.S. Trials, which both drew more than 160,000 fans to the CenturyLink Center.
“I think we're pretty excited about what we can offer this time around in the form of changes,” Cliff said. “And we're very comfortable from an operational standpoint, and from a community standpoint and how it's received.
“We know that we're the smallest venue of the remaining ones. We also know that we've hosted it successfully twice before and they were pleased with it. It's now a question of what do they wish to have going forward.”
Both San Antonio (Alamodome) and St. Louis (Edward Jones Dome) would offer a chance for the U.S. Trials to move into much larger facilities. The Greensboro Coliseum is just slightly bigger than the CenturyLink Center, which can hold about 14,300 for swimming.
When Jacksonville pulled out of the running three weeks ago, officials said one reason was the size of Veterans Memorial Arena, which would have shrunk from 15,000 to 12,000 capacity with the 50-meter pool installed.
“There are things like venue size that are out of our control,” Alan Verlander, executive director of Jacksonville Sports and Entertainment, told the Florida Times-Union.
In eliminating Indianapolis last week, USA Swimming Assistant Executive Director Mike Unger said in a statement that Lucas Oil Stadium — home to the NFL's Indianapolis Colts and the first two Big Ten football championship games — “has proven to be challenging for creating an intimate swimming setting around the pool” for the organization's marquee event.
Indianapolis initially was considered a strong candidate because of its history with USA Swimming. The city previously held the U.S. Trials five times, most recently in 2000.
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